Friday, February 17, 2006

the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat...

Counselors should not watch sporting events. At least, this one should not. I’ve known this since childhood, before I was even aware that I was a counselor (because, in truth, I’ve always been a counselor), yet it does not, unfortunately, prevent me from occasionally plopping my fanny in front of the tube and subjecting myself to emotional torture for hours at a time.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports was a fixture at our house growing up, back in the pre-Victorian era of cable-less television. Every Saturday and Sunday, the TV would be tuned, by hand (gasp), to channel 24 and my male relatives, who will remain nameless but include my father and brother, would be worthless until it was over. As we owned only one TV, and as it was against some sacred childhood code to have a television on and not sit in front of it, I watched an unfortunate amount of sports in my tender youth. It was here that the drama of athletic events unfolded for me, engulfing me perhaps for the first time in a surge of emotions not my own. You see, I did not merely watch sports. I felt them.

Every fall, every bobble, every foul, every error. Every heart-stopping win, every heart-breaking loss. My overdeveloped sense of empathy would wrap itself up in knots, tangling up within the muddled mess every personal disappointment stored in my memory bank. Every disqualification, every overtime, every hope deferred, every dream crushed. I felt it all. Indeed, I feel it still.

As I do not watch many sporting events any longer, unless, of course I’m at my father’s or my brother’s homes, I have managed to spare myself the by-proxied agony of defeat for much of my adult life—the last ten minutes of a Superbowl here, the last quarter of an OSU-Michigan game there. I can handle anything in small, digestible portions. I am fairly safe, therefore, until an even-numbered year rolls around and the fanfare begins on a Friday evening and our television set doesn’t cool down until over two weeks later.

Just as the Olympics are the height of athletic competition, so are they the height of emotional turmoil for the empathetic viewer. The stories, the hopes, the dreams. There are no greater heights and no greater depths than observed at the Olympic games. Fallen skiers. Fallen skaters. Fallen heroes. What makes for a good counselor makes for a miserable sports observer. I am an emotional wreck for two weeks.

“That’s just the nature of sport,” my father tells me. Michelle Kwan claims she understands this, but her tear-filled eyes tell us otherwise. My eyes fill with hers—me, who does not even like Michelle Kwan and finds her obsession with Olympic gold bordering on pitiful—I am saddened for her in her disappointment. She is but one of many who move me to tears.

My saving grace (read: copout) in our internet age has been to sit with my wireless laptop in my lap as I sit in front of the Olympic coverage. (We are, for the record, still pre-Victorian in our own household, thereby the Olympics don’t start at our house until 8:00PM.) Even this does not spare me. Even the knowledge of who wins and who loses, who succeeds and who fails, who celebrates and who mourns—even with this knowledge, I am still a nervous wreck. Skaters fall and still medal—I cry. Nerds and beauty queens stand together on a podium—I cry. One skater goes home, another gets a chance of a lifetime—I cry for them both.

In the word of Bill Clinton, Olympic hopefuls, “I feel your pain.”

Perhaps I should be a politician. The counseling experience does not serve me well come Olympic time. Watching sports is definitely hazardous to a Mental Health Professional’s mental health.

15 comments:

amy said...

So glad I'm not the only one who so personally feels the agony of defeat. I lived in Athens during the 2004 Olympics. One of my friends once dated a Canadian rower, who was a favorite at the Olympics for a medal. We went to his event and watched him row...and get disqualified. It was horrificly heartwrenching--I literally felt like I was in shock--as they announced the disqualification. When I met him afterwards, I wanted to hug him and cry. Fortunately I was able to pull myself together, but...

Just can't imagine if I was an athlete myself. How do they live with experiencing the disappointment of losing over and over again?

Cynthia said...

Amy- to answer your question "how do they.." they're trained that way. Years of it.

Although I feel the pain and remorse of Michelle Kwan, I jumped for joy, no I leapt for joy when I heard the news that Ms. Hughes will get her shot. I saw her in the National Championships and something about her made me heart leap!! She should have been at the Olympics in the first place according to her third place standing, just my humble opinion. But I can't wait to see her skate.

I've cried every freakin night over somebody's loss and somebody's gain...Chad Hedrick (speed skater), Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboarding...UGH what WAS she thinking?!?), Bode Miller (Super G and other...what the HECK?) etc...

I love the OLYMPICS!! What a dream. God bless 'em all!

lorie said...

Oh, I'm so glad it's not just me!

How cool, Amy, to get to see a competition! I'm sure it is even more intense and heartwrenching in person!

And I'm also excited that Hughes will get to take her rightful spot- I hope she enjoys herself!

Back to the speedskating finals!

moshpitmarsha said...

Can you believe that the U.S brought home a silver for Ice Dancing?

Cynthia said...

It is to me considering I was more intrigued with the Bulgarians. Not a big fan of Tanith and Ben. Sorry.

moshpitmarsha said...

Tanith and Ben did an amazing job. Americans are not known for ice dancing. They made history with that silver medal.

lorie said...

Let's talk Vonetta Flowers. Did anyone see the story on her tonight? OMG- I bawled! She is now my official hero of the Olympics!!!!

Cynthia said...

Lorie--yeah we saw the story...and we cried. I also cried when they told the story of Tugbah (sp), the girl from Turkey whose family sold everything and sacrificed everything they'd ever known to get her to the level of the Olympics...they are so poor that neither of her parents could afford to come to the games to see their daughter skate. Her dad watched from Turkey by television. She was alone without her family there. I sobbed. I'll always root for the underdog.

lorie said...

I missed that one! Good thing--we are almost out of tissues!

And as for skating, I now officially can't decide who I dislike MORE, Hedricks or Shani. Joey Cheeks all the way. He's ADORABLE.

moshpitmarsha said...

I have not kept up with this drama, but I have heard that Hedricks and Shani have been jerks.

What ever happened to the Tonya Harding/Kerrigan soap opera?

Cynthia said...

I saw Harding in some interview not too long ago (within a month) and she looked really bad. It was freaky. She's thinking about doing a reality show of some sort...I can't remember what exactly. What a strange world she lives in. Kerrigan is on the Skating With Celebrities, although I haven't watched it since the first episode because I thought it sucked so bad. Anyone got a club?

moshpitmarsha said...

Cynthia

Ha, ha, ha, very funny

Hyperion said...

I like your definition of "Pre-Victorian." I'm going to use that, but don't worry; I'll give you credit, unless the people I'm speaking to don't know you.

Blundering American said...

I'm quite the Olympicaholic myself, but not for figure skating. This year, I was drawn, addicted really, to curling. Even if it's a different sport, it's nice to know someone else had the same experience.

lorie said...

hyperion- you have my permisison!

blundering- we missed all of the curling b/c of not having cable, but I heard it created quite a stir! What REALLY got me going was the speedskating and the acrobatics, both on skis and on boards. Fascinating stuff. Not for the faint of heart!